Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 6.9.23

Thank a Farmer

I recently read an article in the Roanoke Times about a report done by listing the Virginia counties with the most farmland. According to Stacker, they compiled a list of the top 25 counties “using data from the Agriculture Department's Farm Service Agency. Farmers reported the data as mandated by participation in USDA income support programs, including Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage as well as loan assistance.”

When I read this, I realized that their list does not give a full picture of agriculture in Virginia and the Ninth District. Washington County wasn’t included in Stacker’s top 25 list when that county is well known to be a top agriculture county in the state.

According to Stacker’s list, four counties in the Ninth District are included in Virginia’s top 25: Wythe (#10), Bedford (#14), Franklin (#15), and Russell (#16). But, as mentioned in the article, the list above only represents the farms and farmland that participate in USDA crop insurance and, therefore, leave out a significant chuck of farmland in the state. Particularly, it appears that it does not include land dedicated to livestock, so acres used for cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, etc. aren’t included. Case in point, the report says Virginia has 3,074,491 acres of farmland. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the real number is around 7.7 million acres.

Having lived in Southwest Virginia most of my life and knowing that the agriculture profile of the region was inaccurate, I took it upon myself to do some research. The Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) gathers data every five years for their Census of Agriculture. According to the agency, it is the only source of uniform, comprehensive, and impartial agriculture data for every state and county in the nation.

As predicted, NASS’ numbers actually look much different than reported by Stacker.

According to their 2017 Census of Agriculture, the most recent year in which data is available, Bedford is actually #5 in top agricultural counties in Virginia with 211,087 acres of farmland, not #14. Four other Ninth District counties are included in just the top 10. Washington County is #7 with 176,344 acres; Russell County is #8 with 170,285 acres; Franklin County is #9 with 156,254 counties; and Wythe is #10 with 151,563 acres. According to NASS, the next census, the 2022 Census of Agriculture, will be published in 2024. 

(I should also note, Bedford and Franklin counties are currently in the Ninth District as redistricting took place last year. In 2017, they were not a part of the Ninth.)

While the census does give people a good picture of how much of the Ninth District is dedicated to agriculture, it’s not just about acres of farmland. It is also about economic output. Virginia’s agriculture industry is the largest private industry in the Commonwealth, providing an impact of over $82 billion to our state’s economy annually and almost 381,800 jobs. It is also the largest industry in the Ninth Congressional District.

Based on the 2017 Census, the Ninth District ranks third overall in market value of agricultural products sold in the state and first in four different categories of agricultural products sold. In the crops category, the Ninth is first in ‘cultivated Christmas trees and short rotation woody crops.’ Grayson County produces a vast majority of the Christmas trees in the state, with more than three times the area dedicated to growing Christmas trees then the next closet county, Floyd County, which is also in the Ninth!

In the livestock, poultry, and products category, the Ninth ranks first in ‘cattle and calves.’ Washington County has the most cattle and calves in the Ninth District with over 900 farms and 66,000 cattle and calves. Wythe is second with 573 farms and over 55,000 cattle and calves.

The Ninth also ranks first in ‘sheep, goats, wool, mohair, milk’ and in ‘other animals and animal products.’ I look forward to seeing NASS’ updated statistics to see how the agriculture profile of the Ninth District has changed.

So, the point of all this data is that if you live in the Ninth Congressional District, be sure to thank a farmer this week. Besides providing food and other necessary products, farming families are the number one economic driver in this Congressional District. Neither you nor I should ever forget it.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.


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